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February 28, 2020

Wild, Wild Rake by Janna Macgregor ~ a Review & Excerpt

by MK French

Lady Avalon Warwyk had to marry her husband at the urging of her parents, and the two always loathed each other. She didn't mourn him when he died and took charge of her son and the estate left behind. Her son's guardian sent his brother, Vicar Devan Farris, to investigate how she was able to do that, as well as to check if she was squandering her son's inheritance. Devan has the reputation of being a rake, and never tried to disprove it. The two were at odds from the start, but Devan is sure that he is attached to Avalon from the start.

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Wild Wild Rake
February 2020;  St. Martin's; 978-1250296016
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); Regency romance
Wild, Wild Rake is one of the Cavisham Heiresses novels, but it's not necessary to have read those first. Over the course of the early chapters, we're told all we need to know about the family, in that they tend to marry for love and always encourage their family members to do so. Avalon is one of the Cavisham descendants, yet her parents didn't care about her feelings and had her marry for money and settling old debts. We know there's going to be a happily ever after at the end, and that the verbal abuse and isolation that Avalon had endured with her first marriage would be vindicated in some way. She built a life for herself afterward, helping women down on their luck and cultivating friendships with other women and the people in the village. Because of this, the threat Devan poses in the beginning is a very real one. Once he realizes it, Devan backs off and tries to defuse the threat as best as he can, and truly does come to care for the people of the village as well as Avalon.

Of course, there are complications along the way, in the form of their own misconceptions, Avalon's fear of repeating her past, ruined reputations and an out-of-nowhere villain to provide the threat to life and limb. Avalon throughout the novel tries to keep her emotions in check and in control of her future, which I really admire about her. Her son seems adorable and trying to be so mature even though he is nine years old, and I wished I got a chance to see more of him. Some of the other background characters are fairly flat, but some do eventually take on a bit more personality and are more fun to read.

Buy Wild, Wild Rake at Amazon

Excerpt from Wild, Wild Rake by Janna MacGregor

Avalon read the first line in the letter from her son’s guardian, Gavin Farris, the Earl of Larkton. By all appearances the words resembled something innocuous, purely designed to lull a person into thinking it contained real concern with a touch of whimsical affection.
My dearest lady, I do hope this finds you and your intrepid son well.
“Avalon, did you hear the news?” Seventeen, on the cusp of eighteen years of age, Avalon’s sister, Lady Sophia Cavensham, looked up from her embroidery and smiled. Her gaze darted to her friend Miss Penelope Rowley, the one and only niece of the wealthiest gentry landowner in the shire. Though she was two years older than Sophia, Penelope had become somewhat of a fixture at Warwyk Hall over the last six months since she’d moved to her aunt and uncle’s home. The two women were inseparable.
Penelope let out a dramatic sigh then collapsed in a swoon across the pink-and-gold brocade sofa. In the process, she kneed the table, upsetting the delicate pink china cup and saucer. “Oww.”
Avalon tried to ignore their chatter. The Earl of Larkton’s correspondence had increased in frequency over the last several months. The weekly letters were turning into biweekly posts. Each one wanted more and more control over the Warwyk estate and more decision-making control over her ten-year-old son, Thane Pearce, the Marquess of Warwyk. She doubled her concentration on the letter as she read the entire first paragraph.
The purpose of my correspondence is to inform you that I’ve appointed a new vicar for the village of Thistledown. The man comes with impeccable standing and experience. In addition, his educational training is second to none. He’s a protégé of Lord Bishop Marlowe.
“He’s extraordinary.” Sophia’s dreamlike whisper floated through the air like a dandelion seed.
“He’s . . . simply exquisite.” Penelope’s voice joined Sophia’s in a chorus of dazzled fascination.
My dear Marchioness, it’s my pleasure to announce that my brother—
Avalon swallowed the sudden onrush of bile that marched up her throat. It couldn’t be. Fate was not that hateful.
“Mr. Devan—” Sophia sighed.
“Farris.” Penelope finished the sentence and slowly drew her hand against her forehead as if saying his name caused her to faint.
“No. Not him.” Avalon murmured the words aloud. The sanctimonious prig had arrived to make her life a living hell. Avalon grimaced to keep from casting her accounts. Now she was just exaggerating like the girls. She wasn’t really physically sick, but the news could make a person ill. “When did he arrive in the village?”
Clueless as to how the news affected her older sister, Sophia scooted to the edge of the crimson-and-white striped club chair that sat adjacent to Avalon’s matching one. “Two days ago. Penelope and I just happened to be walking in front of the vicarage when we saw the Earl of Larkton’s coach arrive. The new vicar followed behind on horseback.”
Penelope nodded vigorously as if Sophia’s story needed affirmation.
Avalon wanted to roll her eyes. The two women “never just happen” to do anything. They orchestrated and connived everything from shopping to men. God save anyone who crossed their paths. If one of the girls took a shine to any of the ton’s marriageable men, then London’s finest would soon understand what it meant to be hunted.
As the girls continued their chatter, Avalon devoted her full attention to the rest of the letter. Better to finish the horrid task, then take a long walk through her gardens. Though it was January and bitterly cold outside, a brisk hour of exercise would help Avalon clear some of her unease at the news that Mr. Devan Farris had invaded her village.
I’ve considered your request that the young marquess continue his studies at home, but at the age of ten, his interests would best be served by attending Eton sooner rather than later. That’s where boys turn into men. Your suggestion that he attend Harrow won’t do. His father had insisted that I promise he attend Eton. However, since his Latin skills are somewhat lacking, I’ve decided to hire my brother, Mr. Farris, to tutor him in the subject.
Her blood simmered at the words. The earl’s declaration was nothing more than gilding the lily. Everyone within fifty miles of London knew that Devan Farris sought to marry an heiress. Until he found one, the fortune-hunting vicar thought to use her son’s marquisate to pay double for his services. Since her son’s estate paid for the vicar’s wages, Mr. Farris would receive another wage from the coffers for tutoring lessons.
But what really brought her blood to boil was that the smug vicar would be nosing into her business, and that wouldn’t do at all. She and only she ruled the parish with a fair and impartial hand. No one, including Devan Farris, would upset her world.

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband and three young children.

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